Fall in Korea, a time when we can experience amazing foliage, and with winter around the corner, it also means harvest time. Happy Bus Day is an organization, established by MAFRA, which educates both foreigners and locals about farm practices in Korea through farm to table day trip experiences.
After the Korean War, citizens fled cities and took refuge in the countryside creating industry from the land in farming and agricultural practices. Today this practice has taken a 180 and now almost all of Korea’s population lives in cities and farming is slowly becoming a near extinct profession. The government is looking at the industry in hopes to make it sustainable once again. Through educational programs like Happy Bus Day this is becoming possible. I attended my second trip this October where we set out from the bustle of Seoul City towards the countryside to see what it is really all about.
Our first stop was a farm in Soomy Village located in Yangpyhunh in Gyenggi-do. This area is designated for visitors to experience farm life. It also is the home of many festivals including the strawberry festival in the spring, catfish festival in the summer and kimchi making festival in the fall. We were headed to make Korea’s staple food- of course KIMCHI!
We walked onto the farm where we were faced with a handful of elders and a huge crop of Korean cabbage and turnips. We suited up with aprons, gloves, head coverings and arm protections to avoid the messy kimichi getting on our clothes. We stepped onto a covered patio to get to work on Kimchi production. A master Kimchi maker instructed us on how to create the perfect recipe.
Ingredients were poured in front of us including tiny shrimp, spicy red pepper powder and finally the pre-salted cabbage. We watched an instructor pack the cabbage to turn into Kimchi and then followed her lead. My husband, who has very little (need I say no?) cooking skill came along for the trip. He even had fun trying to craft kimchi! A farmer walked over to him and packed a cabbage leaf full of the spicy mixture popping it into his mouth. Instantly his forehead began to sweat from the spicy flavor. YIKES!
Also among the participants was Danny Shechtman, a noble piece price winner in chemistry. He rolled up his sleeves and began grating cabbage among the locals and expats of all ages. Proving that anyone can have fun making Kimchi, he playfully danced along to the grating motion of his turnip.
Once we had our cabbage prepared for Kimchi we placed it into containers to take home. We were then given pork wrapped with Kimchi in cabbage to snack on. This dish is a traditional meal to eat when Kimchi making.
From all that kimchi making we all had worked up quite the appetite. Our next stop was lunch! We were back on the bus, only to arrive later at Kwang-I Won restaurant, where we were greeted by the MAFRA minister and invited to share a meal with him. The village restaurant specializes in soybean paste and farm to table dinning experiences. The experience from the food, to the restaurant facilities were spectacular.
The restaurant itself had an amazing ambiance complete with 100’s of Kimchi pots in its front and a roof made from broken pots. The menu included nearly a dozen traditional farm fresh dishes incorporating soy sauce soybean paste and other natural enzymes.
The morning was spent with Korea Tradition but after lunch we headed to a place that creates products new to Korea- dairy! I know what you are thinking dairy in Korea? We don’t often think of Cheese, Yogurt and dairy products when we think of Korea but as foreign food becomes more popular in Korea cheese is quickly becoming a favorite food in Korea. Cheese is similar to many of the tastes and textures already in Korean cooking so it is complimentary to the Korean pallet.
Euna Farm is a ranch produces organic milk and creates cheese and yogurt products. Visitors can enjoy experiences farm like and making these products. The facilities also house a pension for those seeking accommodations.
Our experience began with making cheese. The farm owner welcomed us into a kitchen and explained how to make cheese. We marveled as she warmed cheese curds with hot water and then stretched it into a long pizza like shape, before putting it back together into a line and braiding it. The owner only spoke Korea, but interpreters also joined us for the trip. They did a spectacular job translating what was going on. They also were very animated, making it enjoyable to listen to! Often listening to interpretation can be very dry, but we were delighted by, Happy Bus Day’s interpreters and their chrismal!
When it was our turn to give cheese making a go, we poured hot water onto the curd and followed instructions. It was really interesting to see the cheese making process. The most difficult part was braiding the long strands of cheese. The chef had effortlessly done this, but when it was our turn we all struggled! I am not good at braiding hair, but was able to successfully turn my cheese blob into a braid! Yippee! I was happy to show off my cheese braid to my group, and then assist them in the braiding process.
Our next activity was preparing cheese tteokbokki. Tteokbokki is a long skinny rice cake that is commonly eaten in Korea. We moved on to another kitchen where woks were set out and followed a chef in preparing the dish. Tteokbokki is most commonly eaten with a thick red pepper sauce. This fusion dish used vegetables, a small amount of sauce and plenty of cheese! It was delicious and enjoyable to sample.
Our final activity of the day was a scavenger hunt which had us running all around the farm in search of different live stock, and activities. My husband and I ran from place to place, dressing up like farmers, calling for sheep that were grazing in a field and petting a horse that lives on the facilities. We were very excited to WIN the scavenger hunt! Our reward was 3 containers of the yogurt that the farm made. I wasn’t sure how the yogurt would taste, but it ended up being delicious and supplied me with a weeks worth of breakfast!
The days activities were really enjoyable. Getting away from the concrete jungle that makes up Seoul is always refreshing. If you love food, I encourage making a trip to the countryside to experience some of the farm experience program that the government has set up. There is nothing quite like eating food that has just been picked and prepared right before your eyes!
Contact: Hyun Kee Lee 031-775-5205
531 Bongsang-ri, Danwol-myeon Yangpyung-gun, Gyenggi-do, Korea
Kwang-I Won Village Restaurant
Contact: Kwang Ja Kim 021-774-4700
120-11 Yongmoonsan-ro, Youngmoon-myeon, Yangpyung-gun, Gyeonggi-do, Korea
Euna Dairy Farm
Contact: OK hyang Cho 031-882-5868
Mountain 41-10, Geumdang-ri, Ganam-myeon, Yeojoo-gun, Gyeonggi-do, Korea